§ Order for Consideration, as amended, read.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, there was some doubt as to whether the Half-past Twelve o'clock Rule, which prohibited the consideration of contested Bills after that hour, applied to the Reports of Standing Committees. He would not, 1444 on that occasion, raise the question whether they could proceed with the Bill then or not; but would assume, for the purpose of not placing the House in a wrong position with reference to this Order, that the Half-past Twelve Rule did apply, and ask that it be taken tomorrow.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be considered To-morrow."—(Mr. Attorney General.)
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he had an appeal to make to the hon. and learned Attorney General not to proceed with the Bill that Session. He was quite aware that the Bill had been before a Standing Committee; that the Committee gave great attention to it; argued it very fully, and came to certain conclusions with regard to it. When the Bill had passed the Standing Committee it was reported to the House, but not for several weeks afterwards, because the Committee had been for some time considering the Criminal Code (Indictable Offences Procedure) Bill. The scope of the Bill had been very materially altered in Committee; but it was not until the 6th of August that the Attorney General was induced to restore it to its original form. He said that on this ground Members interested in the Bill had just cause of complaint if it was to be pressed forward that Session. He sympathized very much with the hon. and learned Gentleman, who had taken such pains with the Bill, and who, he was quite sure, would have brought it on shortly after it came from the Standing Committee, had it not been for the pressure of Government Business. He was bound to say that the hon. and learned Gentleman had done everything he could to bring the Bill forward. The delay which had occurred was through no fault of the Attorney General; but he would ask the House whether they thought it practicable, at that period of the Session, with the Prorogation of Parliament to take place on Saturday next, that a Bill of such great importance could be passed? Was the Bill to remain in the form in which it was originally brought forward, or was it to be passed in the extended form in which it left the Standing Committee? That, in itself, was one of the great questions which could only be decided by a full debate in the House. The Bill would 1445 have to be discussed in "another place" after it had left them; but it was absolutely impossible that it could be discussed properly in that House. They could not obtain the opinion of the Law Lords upon it, because they were absent, nor the opinion of the Lord Chief Justice, who was in America; and, under those circumstances, the Bill, if it were passed, would only be scrambled through the House. It was in no hostile spirit that he once more asked the Government not to proceed with the Bill; but, perhaps, the best course would be to let it stand over, and to ask the Government at Question time to-morrow whether they did not think it impossible that the Bill could be properly discussed that Session, either in that House or in the House of Lords; and whether the Government were not prepared to abandon it for the present Session?
§ MR. DODDS
said, he hoped the Attorney General would not listen to the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman opposite to drop the Bill, which had taken up so much time. It was not for them to consider how it would be dealt within "another place;" and, so far as that House was concerned, he thought there was ample time for its consideration. Notwithstanding the absence of the Judges, he was of opinion that they should deal with the Bill, and send it to the House of Lords in the usual way.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
said, he regarded the argument of the hon. Member for Stockton as a most conclusive reason why they should not proceed with the Bill. The hon. Member said it had taken up a great deal of time. No doubt it had; it required a great deal of time to deal with a question so difficult and thorny. Notwithstanding the time so spent, hon. Members were not all satisfied with the Bill; and, exhausted as they were, they considered it unreasonable to proceed with it at the fag end of the Session. If there were more time before them, he would say let the Bill go forward; but it would be an absolute mockery to do so in existing circumstances. He thought the Judicial system of the country, the Appellate system of the country, and the honour of the country, were too important to play such tricks with; and, therefore, he hoped the measure would not be proceeded with.
§ MR. EDWARD CLARKE
reminded the Government that by requiring the 1446 House to pass the Bill in the form proposed by the Attorney General they would strike the heaviest possible blow at the system of Grand Committees. It had been propounded by the Prime Minister that that system was one by which the House devolved on a Committee the consideration of matters with which a small Committee could deal; and now the Attorney General proposed, by restoring this Bill to its original form, to undo the work of the Standing Committee. He repeated that to do so would be to strike a great blow at the system of Standing Committees.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Consideration, as amended, deferred till To-morrow.